Wax Poetic

Nublu Sessions

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Since their debut in 1997, Wax Poetic have been mentioned numerous times as the "hip-hop" or "downtempo electronica" band where superstar vocalist Norah Jones got her start. She returns for two cuts on their sophomore effort, and they do still have elements of hip-hop and electronica, but my have they grown. Leader/saxophonist/all-around-visionary Ilhan Ersahin has shaped a loose collection of sidemen and a revolving door full of guests into a smart, adaptable unit of players who act as a modern day version of Motown's Funk Brothers or Lee "Scratch" Perry's Upsetters. The band benefits from their breeding at Ersahin's Manhattan club Nublu, a club/performance space that has Brazilian parties one night and a broken beat DJ the next. Nublu Sessions comes off as a weeks' pass to the club with reggae, house, jazz, samba, and just about everything else that is cosmopolitan, mixing together with Ersahin and Wax Poetic's vision and spirit holding it all together. Norah Jones' high profile appearances are more humble than expected and should cushion the blow for jazz-heads if her next album is full of atmospheric pop. Gruff reggae man U-Roy sounds as effervescent as ever, and N'Dea Davenport's turn gives the album a sparkling disco detour. Saul Williams' kinetic narrative commands his track as expected, but his message serves to break up an otherwise enigmatic album. Slow electro-click and smooth house numbers show up towards the end, and they're just as captivating and moody as the organic tracks. The Hollywood soundtrack gloss throughout the album may put off the underground snobs, but Wax Poetic understand both the sleek and the deep, and are smart far beyond their merely clever name. One listen to the warm and smooth, refined yet exciting Nublu Sessions and you'll wonder how you ever slinked across the loft without it.

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